Shopping projects and mass transportation efforts usually take place in totally different environments. This morning, they came together in Downtown Los Angeles.
Representatives from the public and private sectors opened a tunnel that connects the Financial District shopping complex The Bloc with the Seventh Street/Metro Center rail station. The $9.3 million project runs under Seventh Street and emerges in the courtyard of the complex that also holds an office tower and a hotel.
The Bloc owner Wayne Ratovich has spent more than $180 million to upgrade the buildings and common spaces — including tearing the roof of the 1970s era mall, making it an open-air destination — since acquiring the former Macy’s Plaza in 2012. The subway portal is part of that work.
Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board Chair John Fasana said the tunnel comes as the region’s public transportation infrastructure is growing.
“First, for Metro it helps us create a driving transit-oriented community that our transit customers can use to better connect with a wealth of local shopping,” Fasana said during a ceremony to open the portal. “Second, it brings new customers to The Bloc’s urban outdoor center.”
The Bloc tunnel marks the first partnership of this nature for Metro. The agency and The Bloc each contributed $4.65 million to the effort.
The 25-foot tunnel opens on the south side of Seventh Street, opposite the main station entrance at Seventh and Hope streets. Pedestrians walking down a flight of stairs at The Bloc find a panel of ticketing machines.
The initial idea came for the portal came in 1991, when subway planners decided to install portions of station walls that could be knocked out for future entry points if ridership grew. After the Ratkovich Company and its investment partners acquired the mall, they started working with the county to get those panels knocked out.
The tunnel is expected to help bring foot traffic to The Bloc. Central City Association President and CEO Jessica Lall said that the partnership between Metro and The Bloc is key to Downtown’s growth and could set a pattern for future relationships.
“By connecting the exciting new retail center, The Bloc, to Metro’s second busiest transit station, this new portal will encourage the use of transit and enhance the shopping experience, all of which will strengthen the city’s core business district,” Lall said in a statement to the Los Angeles Downtown News after the event.
The Seventh Street/Metro Center Station serves the Blue, Expo, Red and Purple lines, and accommodates roughly 50,000 riders each day. The $1.55 billion Regional Connector project, which will bring three new stations to Downtown, will connect it with the Gold Line. The Connector is expected to be complete in 2021.
The renovation of the shopping complex is continuing, and some of the retail spaces in the mall remain vacant. A long-awaited tenant will be the Alamo Drafthouse cinema chain, which after a series of delays is expected to open this year.
Wayne Ratkovich, the president and CEO of the Ratkovich Company, praised Metro for trying something new with the partnership. He added that the improvements and connections signify Downtown’s transformation into a 24-hour city.
Fasana said the new entrance will help with congestion, particularly during peak hours. City Councilman José Huizar, whose 14th District includes Downtown, added that the tunnel is also a safety measure, as it allows people on either side of Seventh Street to reach Metro trains without having to deal with automobile traffic.
When it came time to formally open the tunnel, Fasana referenced former President Ronald Reagan, telling a group to “tear down this wall.” The representatives gathered before a panel of dense foam blocks and used small hammers to knock it down, before leading a crowd into the station.